Latest tourism security scare in the centre of Lopburi. A 26-year-old man was arrested on Saturday following an early morning handbag snatch targeting a UK tourist in the city in Central Thailand famous for its uproarious monkeys.

The Royal Thai Police is turning to elephant patrols in response to a directive by PM Srettha Thavisin to upgrade security for tourists in Thailand. It comes with visitor numbers from China down substantially in October following the tragic Paragon Shopping Centre shooting in the Pathum Wan area of Bangkok on October 3rd. The latest incident saw police in Lopburi province arrest a local 26-year-old after he snatched the handbag of a 37-year-old UK visitor as police nationwide remain on high alert to protect the Kingdom’s image.

The Ayutthaya Elephant Police patrols were on display for tourists on Saturday. The Superintendent of Ayutthaya Police Station, Colonel Phuris Chintranan, told reporters that the patrols had received warm praise from international tourists. (Inset) Determined police in Lopburi worked through early Saturday morning to identify and arrest a 26-year-old man who snatched the handbag of a UK tourist at midnight.

With anxiety growing over weak tourist arrival numbers in October ahead of the Tourist High Season, police leaders in the ancient Thai capital of Ayutthaya have unveiled a new approach to guaranteeing the safety of foreign visitors visiting its historic sites.

Five elephant patrol units have commenced operations within the ancient site of the old Thai capital, a popular attraction for international visitors to the Kingdom.

More than just a colourful photo op, the elephant patrol is meant to instil confidence and provide practical security for the popular ancient sites

The new police units also give the force a colourful photo opportunity to make its intentions clear as police forces around Thailand are on high alert following an order from the Prime Minister’s Office in September. 

On Saturday, at the historic Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya, Police Major General Chayanon Meesati, the provincial police commander, and top brass from Ayutthaya Mueang Police Station, along with Mahouts to control the elephants gathered to show off the new and colourful patrols.

Police General Chayanon said his initiative comes in response to calls from the government to Royal Thai Police to upgrade the country’s security regime for tourists. 

Old Ayutthaya site is one of the Kingdom’s top visitor attractions, being Thailand’s ancient capital before 1767 when the Kingdom was known as Siam

In brief, the five elephant units will be used to guard the ancient sites, one of Thailand’s top tourist attractions.

Tourists visiting the country routinely take excursions from Bangkok on a day visit to the location of the old capital.

In 1767, Ayutthaya, the then Thai or Siamese capital, was destroyed in a violent invasion by the Konbaung Dynasty of Burma or what is now known as Myanmar.

The Burmese troops, however, quickly withdrew from Ayutthaya to successfully fight off an invasion by the Chinese forces of the Qing dynasty.

The upheaval caused by the loss of Ayutthaya led Siam to enter a state of semi-civil war in which King Taksin emerged as the leader of the Kingdom, with his capital in Thonburi, now part of Bangkok.

Taksin, after that, reclaimed Ayutthaya for Siam but retained his capital on the bank of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok.

He later moved the capital to what we now know as Bangkok, which was consolidated as the new capital of Siam by the current Chakri dynasty under King Rama I.

Police in Ayutthaya to retain motorcycle and patrol car units to provide everyday police protection outside the ancient sites, move is also a PR one

Concurrently, the Police Commander of Ayutthaya said the force would retain its usual car and motorcycle patrols.

He emphasised that this was an effort to underscore the determination of his force to take good care of incoming tourists. 

The assembled press took photographs of the elephants and the police officers and heard the Superintendent of Ayutthaya Police Station, Police Colonel Phuris Chintranan, explain that these elephant patrol units would be put into practical use guarding the ancient tourist attractions while also being a PR statement.

He pointed out that the elephants are synonymous with the province and the Kingdom’s history.

The Superintendent said that initial patrols had been quite successful and had seen many foreigners gather around the elephants to take photographs with them and the officers.

Police Colonel Phuris said it was sending the right message about safe tourism.

Chinese tourist numbers down by 60,000 in October 

Tourism leaders have revealed that approximately 60,000 tourists from China cancelled their trips to Thailand in October due to the mass shooting at the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre in which a 14-year-old mentally ill teenager gunned down a 34-year-old Chinese mother of young twins who were with her at the scene. 

Three people ultimately died in the attack, with four hospitalised with injuries.

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Figures released by the Airport Authority of Thailand show a drop in monthly arrivals from China from 650,000 to 590,000 following the incident so far this month.

Business leaders in the tourist sector are determined to carry on and push for a robust High Season despite the setback of the shopping centre shooting

Thailand is currently offering a visa waiver scheme for Chinese tourists until February 25th 2024, and is targeting six million arrivals up to that point from the beginning of this year.

The tally would be significantly below eleven million visitors seen in the twelve months from the 1st of January 2019 to the 31st of December 2019.

New visa-free regime plan for Chinese tourists will see more criminal elements entering Thailand

While business leaders are worried about the situation, they are carrying on with their endeavours in the hopes of a more substantial high season than last year. 

Many openly admit that the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre incident and reports of criminal attacks on Chinese visitors have caused damage to the Kingdom’s reputation in China.

One of these is Mr Chutidech Promkaewngarm, who is the Assistant Manager with Standard Tour Company Ltd., based in Chiang Mai and which has been in business for 33 years.

Speaking with the Bangkok Post, he specifically identified the death of the Chinese woman at the shopping centre as being responsible for the nervousness currently being seen among prospective Chinese visitors.

Economic woes in China are also a significant factor, with the country at this time embroiled in both political and economic turmoil

However, he clarified that not all Chinese groups and wealthy independent travellers had cancelled their holidays, although many had postponed their trip until another time. 

‘The number of Chinese tourists is now less than 50% of that in 2019 or before Covid-19,’ Mr Chutidech explained.

Analysts also note that one of the main reasons for the fall in visitors from the Chinese market is the deteriorating economic situation in the country and the darker image there, among the population, of Thailand and all Southeast Asian destinations because of cybercrime fears.

Thailand has also seen political turbulence behind the scenes at the top in Beijing, with the country’s leadership seen as more erratic while economic fundamentals have deteriorated significantly.

2013 hit movie Lost in Thailand launched the boom in Chinese tourism to Thailand, which ended with the pandemic and has given way to a darker storyline

At the present time, China is in the midst of a local banking and property crisis, which had already seen the collapse of leading Chinese firms before the COVID-19 emergency, which also saw the Chinese economy shut down in 2022.

Property collapse in China, as well as a regional banking crisis, have undermined confidence within China and among investors

China has been reeling from highly damaging US tariffs and sanctions and the pandemic emergency, which saw the Chinese economy shut down in 2022, even after intractable problems had arisen with the country’s property and regional banking sector.

These problems still threaten an even bigger economic implosion.

The situation has undermined consumer confidence and investment levels, approaching a forty-year low.

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The property development market represented 30% of China’s recorded GDP up to now. 

The latest incident in Thailand regarding tourism safety occurred early on Saturday morning when a British woman was the victim of a snatch theft outside a hotel in Lopburi City Centre, famous for its roaming monkeys. 

She reported the incident to Lopburi Police Station at 1.52 am. 

Police in Lopburi conducted an all-night search to track down the 26-year-old culprit who snatched a British woman’s handbag on Saturday morning

Police Major General Jirasan Kaewsaeng-ek, the Lopburi Police regional commander, directed an operation in response to the incident in which police conducted an all-night search to track down the perpetrator.

At length, Mueang Lopburi Police Station arrested a 26-year-old man on an arrest warrant issued by Lopburi Provincial Court on the 21st of October, number 175/2566, for committing the effects of ‘snatching property and using a vehicle to facilitate the commission of an offence and taking the property away.’

The arrested man, Mr Narathorn or ‘Fluke’, was taken into custody at his house in the Talay Chubsorn Sub District of Mueang Lopburi after the Provincial Court issued the warrant.

The victim was a 37-year-old woman from the United Kingdom, identified as Ms Mischa Pearlson.

She told officers that at midnight on Friday, Saturday morning, she was coming out of the Saphan Dam branch of the popular 7-Eleven convenience store chain and heading for the Windsor Hotel when a tall man accompanied by a white woman riding a white motorcycle approached her. 

Man on a white motorbike snatched the 37-year-old’s handbag as she walked near the Windsor Hotel in Lopburi after visiting a local convenience store

She was walking before the hotel entrance when the man snatched a blue shoulder bag from her. 

She told police that inside, she had an iPhone XS phone in a brown case, ฿1,500 in cash and a Wise bank card.

The culprit sped along the Railway Road in Lopburi to make his escape.

After his arrest, investigators questioned Mr Narathorn at Mueang Lopburi Station, but he admitted his guilt from the outset.

CCTV evidence tracked him to his home

Police quickly identified him from CCTV footage and requested an arrest warrant from the court.

The police commander for the region, Police Major General Jirasan, made it clear that the safety of foreign tourists was now a priority for the Royal Thai Police. 

Police tracked the suspect named in the warrant down to his home in Talay Chubsorn Subdistrict, and once they approached the entrance to his house, he admitted to the crime and was arrested.

He was later taken to the point where he snatched the woman’s handbag to do a crime reenactment on his motorbike.

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